Information on the Conceptual and Administrative Framework of RIS3

This application provides a concise overview and links to extensive repositories of information on the conceptual and administrative framework of RIS3. The majority of sources referenced here are official EU reference sources; other sources, including those provided by commercial third-party providers, are clearly identified as such.

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1. What is a Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3)?

  • Definition of RIS3
    The European Commission offers the following definition of RIS3: " National/regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) are integrated, place-based economic transformation agendas that do five important things:
    • They focus policy support and investments on key national/regional priorities, challenges and needs for knowledge-based development, including ICT-related measures;
    • They build on each country's/region's strengths, competitive advantages and potential for excellence;
    • They support technological as well as practice-based innovation and aim to stimulate private setor investment;
    • They get strakeholders fully involved and encourage innovation and experimentation;
    • They are evidence-based and include sound monitoring and evaluation systems."
  • The Rationale of Smart Specialisation
    The European Commission describes the rationale behind RIS3 as follows:

    "The underlying rational[e] behind the Smart Specialisation concept is that by concentrating knowledge resources and linking them to a limited number of priority economic activities, countries and regions can become - and remain - competitive in the global economy. This type of specialisation allows regions to take advantage of scale, scope and spillovers in knowledge production and use, which are important drivers of productivity.

    Furthermore, strategies that combine innovation with specific strengths of the national/regional economy offer a much greater chance of success. Imitating other regions by trying to create 'miracle growth' in headline industries such as semiconductor or biotechnology not only lessens the chances for the imitating region to succeed, but also perpetuates patterns of market dominance with leaders and followers. In short, Smart Specialisation is about generating unique assets and capbilities based on the region's distinctive industry structures and knowledge bases."


    Further information on the rationale of Smart Specialisation is available here on pages 11 to 16.

  • Definition of RIS3
    The European Commission offers the following definition of RIS3: " National/regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) are integrated, place-based economic transformation agendas that do five important things:
    • They focus policy support and investments on key national/regional priorities, challenges and needs for knowledge-based development, including ICT-related measures;
    • They build on each country's/region's strengths, competitive advantages and potential for excellence;
    • They support technological as well as practice-based innovation and aim to stimulate private setor investment;
    • They get strakeholders fully involved and encourage innovation and experimentation;
    • They are evidence-based and include sound monitoring and evaluation systems."
  • RIS3 and Cohension Policy

    The European Commission describes the policy rationale underlying RIS3 as follows:

    @quot;'Europe 2020' requires policy makers to consider how the different aspects of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth are interrelated. Integrated smart specialisation strategies respond to complex development challenges by adapting the policy to the regional context.

    RIS3 supports the creation of knowledge-based jobs and growth not only in leading research and innovation (R&I) hubs but also in less develpoed and rural regions.

    RIS3 is a key part of the proposed EU Cohesion Policy reform supporting thematic concentration and reinforcing strategic programming and performance orientation."

2. RIS3 Growth Mechanisms

  • Entrepreneurial discovery process

    The Entrepeneurial Discovery Process is defined as follows:

    • The EDP is an inclusive and interactive bottom-up process in which participants from different environments (policy, business, academia, etc.) are discovering and producing information about potential new activities, identifying potential opportunities that emerge through this interaction, while policymakers assess outcomes and ways to facilitate the realisation of this potential.
    • The EDP pursues the integration of entrepreneurial knowledge fragmented and distributed over many sites and organisations, companies, universities, clients and users, specialised suppliers (some of these entities being located otuside of the region) through the building of connections and partnerships.
    • The EDP consists of the epxploration and opening up of a new domain of opportunities (technological and market), potentially rich in numerous innovations that emerge as feasible and attractive.
  • Interconnection of EFIF-public-private investments

    Mikel Landabaso comments on the interconnection of public-private investments as follows:

    "A virtuous [...] cycle can be sparked by such a policy, and it could work as follows: by increasing targeted government expenditure G (on innovation eco-systems and human capital skills) that leverages private co-funding I (on innovation: often intangible, long-term, risky investments) which enhances their capacity to compete in global markets (raising exports X), output grows (Y) supported by sustainable jobs. Thus, in actual fact, the public sector is only “advancing” money that could be (partially) clawed back later through increased tax revenue and savings on unemployment benefits, without generating further public deficit in the long term… if this innovation policy is effectively planned and delivered!"

    - Mikel Landabaso (2017). Regional Innovation in Perspective.   
  • Key enabling technologies

    Enabling technologies play an important role in the smart specialisation activities that are being undertaken by the European Commission. The RIS3 guide document notes the following concerning key enabling technologies:

    "Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) have been singled out by the European Commission in the proposal for the new Cohesion Policy as one of the investment priorities of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as a relevant investment for the smart growth of regions."

    The enabling technologies defined as key by the European Commission are micro/nanoelectronics, photonics, nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing systems.

    More information on KETs is available in the Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations (RIS3), page 86-87.

  • Key enabling technologies: Lessons learnt

    While identifying key enabling technologies and putting policies in place to support them is a prerequisite for being able to make use of enabling technologies in RIS3 environments, additional work is needed in order to promote industrial uptake. An IDEA, ZEW and WIFO publication identifies six lessons to keep in mind when devising policy practicises promoting industrial uptake and deployment of KETs:

    1. Need to cover multiple technology readiness level stages
    2. Need to strengthen the demand side support
    3. Need to tap into global value and innovation chains
    4. Options to rethink funding strategy
    5. Options to enhance collaboration between academia and business
    6. Consider making smart choices

    More information on these lessons related to KETs are available in the article Key Enabling Technologies. Exchange of good policy practices promoting the industrial uptake and deployment

  • Internationalisation

    When considering smart specialisation strategies, internationalisation needs to be considered for a number of reasons including complementarity with international partners, competitive international positioning of a specialisation strategy and international opportunities for exploiting specialisation outcomes.

    The RIS3 guide highlights six areas in which public uthoirities can help the internationalisation process:

    • "Knowledge of international markets and technology demand
    • Strategy development for international R&D activities
    • Identification and selection of partners
    • Identification, selection and acquisition of technology
    • Skilled personnel
    • Funding for international core, close-to-market and supporting R&D"

    More information on Internationalisation is available in the Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations (RIS3), page 92-94.

  • Innovation friendly business environments for SMEs

    Creating an innovation-friendly business environment for SMEs, and particularly SMEs that are aligned or aligning with a RIS3 strategy, is an important part of RIS3 strategy development. The RIS3 guide elaborates on why this is important:

    "SMEs are at the centre of the creation of jobs and growth at regional level. Furthermore, SMEs are key players in introducing new prducts/services into the market place and offering innovative solutions to the grand challenges. Entrepreneurship is necessary to make sure that innovation ideas are turned into sustained growth and quality jobs. Therefore, it is important to provide, at regional level, the right mix of financial adn non-financial support to assist entrepreneurs to create new firms and existing enterprises to innovate and develop. The support should aim to icnrease the innovation capacity of SMEs, enabling them to develop, access and absorb new knowledge and thereby grow and compete on icnreasingly global markets."

    More information on Innovation friendly business environments for SMEs is available in the Guide to Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisations (RIS3), page 70-73.

3. RIS3 Ex Ante Conditionalities

  • What is an ex-ante conditionality

    The InfoRegio Regional Policy glossary defines ex ante conditionalities as follows:

    "Ex ante conditionalities (ExAC) are one of the key elements of the cohesion policy reform for 2014-20. They were introduced for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) to ensure that the necessary conditions for the effective and efficient use of ESI Funds are in place.

    These conditions are linked to:

    • policy and strategic frameworks, to ensure that the strategic documents at national and regional level which underpin ESI Funds investments are of high quality and in line with standards commonly agreed by Member States at EU level;
    • regulatory frameworks, to ensure that implementation of operations co-financed by ESI Funds complies with the EU acquis;
    • sufficient administrative and institutional capacity of public administration and stakeholders implementing the ESI Funds.

    There are 7 general ExAC linked to the horizontal aspects of programme implementation and 29 thematic ExAC, which set out sector-specific conditions for relevant investment areas eligible for support under cohesion policy (investment priorities).

  • Ex ante conditionality A.1-1 Research and Innovation

    The first ex-ante conditionality is concerned with research and innovation. It's objective is described as "Strengthening research, technological development and innovation".

    The relevant ex-ante conditionality is specified as follows: "The existence of a national or regional smart specialisation strategy in line with the National Reform Programme, to leverage private research and innovation expenditure, which complies with the features of well-performing national or regional R&I systems."

    More information on this ex-ante conditionality can be found in the Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds, pp.4-8

  • Ex ante conditionality A.1-2 Research and innovation infrastructure

    The second ex-ante conditionality is concerned with research and innovation infrastructure. Its objective is described as follows: "Strengthening research, technological development and innovation (R&D target)".

    The related ex-ante conditionality is described as follows: "Research and innovation infrastructure: The existence of a multi-annual plan for budgeting and prioritisation of investments."

    More information on this ex-ante conditionality can be found in the Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds, pp.14-17

  • Ex ante conditionality A.2-1 Digital growth

    This ex-ante conditionality is concerned with the thematic objectives of "Enhancing access to and use and quality of information and communication technologies (ICT) (Broadband target)"

    The related ex-ante conditionality is described as follows: "Digital growth: A strategic policy framework for digital growth to stimulate affordable, good quality and interoperable ICT-enabled private and public services and increase uptake by citizens, including vulnerable groups, businesses and public administrations including cross border initiatives."

    More information on this ex-ante conditionality can be found in the Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds, pp.20-24

  • Ex ante conditionality A.2-2 Next Generation Network (NGN) – Broadband Infrastructure

    This ex-ante conditionality is concerned with the thematic objectives of "Enhancing access to and use and quality of information and communication technologies (Broadband target)".

    The related ex-ante conditionality is described as follows: "Next Generation Network (NGN) Infrastructure: The existence of national or regional NGN Plans which take account of regional actions in order to reach the Union high-speed Internet access targets, focusing on areas where the market fails to provide an open infrastructure at an affordable cost and of a quality in line with the Union competition and State aid rules, and to provide accessible services to vulnerable groups."

    More information on this ex-ante conditionality can be found in the Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds, pp.26-30

  • Ex ante conditionality A.3 SMEs

    This ex-ante conditionality is concerned with the thematic objectives of "Enhancing the competitivene ss of small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs)".

    The related ex-ante conditionality is described as follows: " Specific actions have been carried out to underpin the promotion of entrepreneurship taking into account the Small Business Act (SBA)"

    More information on this ex-ante conditionality can be found in the Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds, pp.34-36

4. RIS3 Elaboration Process

  • RIS3 design in a nutshell

    The InfoRegio Regional Policy glossary defines ex ante conditionalities as follows:

    "Ex ante conditionalities (ExAC) are one of the key elements of the cohesion policy reform for 2014-20. They were introduced for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) to ensure that the necessary conditions for the effective and efficient use of ESI Funds are in place.

    These conditions are linked to:

    • policy and strategic frameworks, to ensure that the strategic documents at national and regional level which underpin ESI Funds investments are of high quality and in line with standards commonly agreed by Member States at EU level;
    • regulatory frameworks, to ensure that implementation of operations co-financed by ESI Funds complies with the EU acquis;
    • sufficient administrative and institutional capacity of public administration and stakeholders implementing the ESI Funds.

    There are 7 general ExAC linked to the horizontal aspects of programme implementation and 29 thematic ExAC, which set out sector-specific conditions for relevant investment areas eligible for support under cohesion policy (investment priorities).

  • Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3): The steps

    A six-step approach to RIS3 has been proposed in literature and by the Commission:

    1. 1. Analysis of the regional contxt and potential for innovation
    2. Gvernance: Ensuring participation and ownership
    3. Elaboration of an overall vision for the future of the region
    4. Identification of priorities
    5. Definition of coherent policy mix, roadmaps and action plan
    6. Integration of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms

    A more elaborate overview of the six-step approach can be found in Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3): The steps.

5. RIS3 Implementation

  • From priorities to projects: selection criteria and selection process

    "Call desigm, selection process, selection criteria adn evaluators' contribution are some of the focal points addressed in this chapter. Here are the main questions discussed:

    • What policies should be impacted by S3?
    • How to select the right projects?
    • What challenges need to be faced for a correct S3 implementation?

    Even perfectly drafted strategies will not achieve the expected impact unless they are implemented through careful coordination of resources."

  • Monitoring

    "The Handbook for implementing smart specialisation strategies gives the following overview of monitoring:

    Monitoring is a strategic management tool to ensure an effective implementation of S3; it should not be seen just as an administrative burden. Implementation and strategy revision need an informational basis to make informed decisions following two main questions: i) are we doing it right (i.e. are we achieving the goals of our strategy)? ii) Are we doing the right things (i.e. is our strategy still appropriate)?

    Each S3 priority area has its own specificity with its own set of indicators. At the same time, all indicators are meant to track the achievement of predefined objectives.

    Monitoring innovation support at multiple levels of government (national, regional and local) is beneficial for avoiding duplications, enabling benchmarking and ensuring coherence. Without data or other systematic information, it will be impossible to show which goals of the strategy were achieved and which were not within the policy planning horizon."

  • Funding: Overview of ESIF
    The European Union has designed, implemented and monitored RIS3 strategies in the framework of a set of directives, regulations and communications at EU level. These acts are transposed or applied at national level, which creates a complex legal environment in which the management authorities responsible for ESIF as well as public-private partnerships involved in RIS3 operate.

    The Regulation (EU) 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and the Council 17 December 2013 is the legal base which defines a smart specialisation strategy. The core legal acts related to RIS3 are those governing the European Structural and Investment Funds: European Structural and Investment Funds Regulations 2014-2020.

    The ESIF Data Explorer provides access to data on financing and achievements of ESIF funding under ESI 2014-2020.
  • ERDF Funding and Similar Sources of Funding
    European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) R&I investments focus on a limited number of thematic objectives.

    European Social Fund (ESF) funding focuses on employment, e.g. through training and life-long learning, education and social inclusion.

    European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) focuses on links between agriculture, food production and forestry.

    Cohesion Fund (CF) funding focuses on Trans-European transport links and environmental infrastructure projects

    European Investment Bank (EIB) instruments include the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI, not to be mistaken with ESIF); relevant regulations for EFSI can be found here.
  • ESIF 2014-2020 Finance Implementation Details Dataset
    ESIF 2014-2020 Finance Implementation Details Dataset

    This table provides a quick overview of existing finance measures under ESIF 2014-2020. Please use the link below the overview table to access the complete dataset with more elaborate filtering functionalities.

     

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6. RIS3 Assessment

  • RIS3 guidance for expert assessment

    The RIS3 guide recommends the following main guidance questions for expert assessments:

    1. "Is the strategy based on appropriate stakeholder involvement? How does it support the entrepreneurial discovery process of testing possible new areas?
    2. Is the strategy evidence-based? How have areas of strength and future activity been identified?
    3. Does the strategy set innovation and knowledge-based development priorities? How have potential areas of future activty been identified? How does it support the upgrading of existing activities?
    4. Does the strategy identify appropriate actions? How good is the policy mix?
    5. Is the strategy outward looking and how does it promote critical mass/potential?
    6. Does the strategy produce synergies between different policies and funding sources? How does it align/leverage EU/national/regional policies to support upgrading in the identifeid areas of current and potential future strength?
    7. Does the strategy set achievable goals and measure progress? How does it support a process of policy learning and adaptation? How is it to be communicated?
    8. What are the conclusions and which advice can be given to improve the strategy?"
  • Guiding questions for the self-assessment

    The Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research offers the following groups of guiding questions for self-assessment:

    1. "Assessment of the status and potential of the enterprise sector
    2. Assessment of the status and potential of the science/knowledge/creative sector
    3. Assessment of the government sector
    4. Assessment of the smartness of the regional innovation and growth policy framework"

    More information on guiding questions and the specific questions proposed in the categories outlined above can be found in Getting started with RIS3 key. Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research, page 8-15

  • "RIS3 Assessment Wheel" - A synthetic tool to position yourselves and your RIS3

    The EU Commission RIS3 assessment wheel that is provided online by the Commission is described as follows:

    "The development of a tool for the synthetic representation of the progress made in drafting/designing a RIS3 allows condensing a huge amount of information in one visual modality. Although limitations might play a significant role, namely those linked to making a complex process appear simple, the assessment wheel can usefully support a number of activities, e.g. self-assessments, peer-reviews, expert contributions, presentations at dissemination, discussion and negotiation meetings, etc.

    The wheel is built on the basis of the six steps described in the RIS3 Guide and the identification of 3 critical factors for each step. [...] Once the assessment is complete, the final result would appear in a form of "spider graph" where the strongest and weakest positioning would be easily highlighted."

    The assessment wheel is available online, including a quick guide for using it: European Commission. Smart Specialisation Platform.

7. Publications on Smart Specialisation and RIS3